8 years ago
The Captain’s Journal has the best coverage on the web of Marine Corps body armor. Naturally, after Body Armor Wars in the Marines Corps, we were a bit surprised to see a new design for the MTV (Modular Tactical Vest), but weren’t surprised at all that the major component of the weight – the Small Arms Protective Inserts, or SAPIs (or ESAPIs for enhanced 7.62 mm stopping power) – remain the same.
In Body Armor Wars, we made the point that there was essentially no difference between the weight carried by the IBA (Interceptor Body Armor) and MTV tactical vests. They both carry SAPI plates (for 7.62 mm) and soft panels for shrapnel and very small arms protection (9 mm). But the complaints rolled in, and Marine Corps Commandant Conway was determined to reduce weight. Enter the revised version of the MTV.
The new plate carriers are essentially a slimmed-down version of the MTV, with larger arm holes, thinner shoulder straps and a shorter chest profile. The reduction in weight and lower silhouette of the plate carriers “would allow greater mobility with reduced thermal stress in high elevations, thick vegetation and tropical environments,” SysCom said.
The SAPI plates remain the same, but the soft panel coverage is reduced. Upon initial review, we asked, where is the coverage for the shoulders, groin and neck? It isn’t there, and while the weight is reduced, the protection is as well.
Having worn both the IBA and MTV, it is difficult to put on and take off. Neither the front nor the back opens, and so taking 32+ pounds and slipping it over your head with tight clearances leads to scarred noses, bruises on the forehead, and just plain frustration (the 32+ pounds doesn’t include hydration system, ammunition drums, etc.).
But the MTV is still a vast improvement over the IBA carrier. The Captain’s Journal has made the solution clear months ago. Reducing soft panel coverage is low hanging fruit and doesn’t help with protection while providing only marginal weight benefit. The real challenge is to reduce the weight of SAPI plates. Money should be directed at new technologies to reduce weight while also maintaining the current level of protection. As for the MTV, it will be a while before the revised version is issued, and perhaps it will never enter the training regimen for the Marines.
There should be a doctoral candidate in materials engineering somewhere who needs funding and would enjoy studying the fracture mechanics of SAPI plates, and it seems that the Air Force should be willing to relinquish one of its shiny new F-22s for the research, design and testing of lighter body armor for our men in uniform. To save the backs and maybe the lives of our Marines? Is this not a worthy cause? Is some member in charge of defense appropriations in the House of Representatives not willing to take this upon himself for the sake of our Marines? Then we don’t have to strip and bastardize the armor so that the Marines can carry it on their bodies.